On 9 August, a report from Global Witness says that the processes used to extract heavy rare earths are wreaking an environmental toll to meet Chinese and global demand. A 6-month investigation followed the outsourcing of the toxic industry across the Chinese border into Myanmar. It says that a mountainous area, the Kachin Special Region 1, has become the main source, despite the mining being illegal. Among the claims is that entities are registered as domestic businesses, but act as fronts for illegal Chinese investment and take a cut of the profits.
This White Paper from ACAMS in May says that high-profile “smash-n-grab” robberies, and nationwide cases involving major retailers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have made headlines; and recent hearings by the US Congress, that discuss and debate proposed legislation, target the ability of criminal organisations to resell the stolen goods online with relative anonymity. ORC is a low-risk, high-reward business line for transnational criminal organisations’ portfolios that presents a significant financial and public safety risk. However, criminal organisations need to launder the nearly $70 billion of illicit proceeds gained from ORC activities annually, and financial institutions should ensure proper controls are in place to detect and report illicit activities tied to or involving ORC.
On 12 August, Deutsche Welle reported that Paraguay’s Vice-President, Hugo Velazquez said he would offer his resignation to his party and retire from the presidential race, following the US decision to blacklist him from entry over “significant” acts of corruption. The US alleges Velazquez’s close associate Juan Carlos Duarte offered a bribe to a public official in Paraguay with the intent to “obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests”; and Duarte is also accused of breach of trust in his capacity as a legal advisor to the Yacyreta Bi-National Entity hydroelectric plant, a joint venture between Paraguay and Argentina. The US also blacklisted the immediate family members of both men. Duarte also said he would resign and added that he planned to cooperate in the investigation.
On 12 August, the UK P+I Club issued a Circular advising that, on 10 August, the EU had published updated FAQ clarifying the application of provisions relating to the carriage of certain cargoes from Russia, including coal and other solid fossil fuels as well as certain types of fertiliser. These clarifications are said to have a significant impact on the carriage of these commodities by EU entities and the provision of insurance for carriage to any entity regardless of their domicile. It notes that the sanctions provisions were subject to a wind-down period in any event until 10 July and 10 August for sale contracts concluded before 9 April. It says that the involvement of an EU entity in the carriage of Russian fertilisers and coal or other solid fossil fuels to any destination whatsoever and whether inside or outside the EU would be in breach of EU sanctions; and that the sanctions prohibitions include insurance and reinsurance services and prevent any entity subject to the jurisdiction of the EU from providing insurance and reinsurance for the carriage of Russian fertilisers and coal and other solid fossil fuel cargoes regardless of destination.